Jones backing for Price
PAUL Jones has backed Lewis Price to handle his debut against fired-up Northern Ireland on Saturday.The EADT revealed that Price would make his full Wales bow after Danny Coyne was injured last week and even though John Toshack has not yet named his side, it is understood the Blues keeper will start against the Irish, in Belfast.
By Derek Davis
PAUL Jones has backed Lewis Price to handle his debut against fired-up Northern Ireland on Saturday.
The EADT revealed that Price would make his full Wales bow after Danny Coyne was injured last week and even though John Toshack has not yet named his side, it is understood the Blues keeper will start against the Irish, in Belfast.
Jones said: “Danny's injury has possibly opened the door for Lewis and it might be the ideal time to give him a run-out.
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“He has played 12 games for Ipswich this season. I believe he's done reasonably well there and he's looked sharp in training with us.
“You don't know whether young players can handle the occasion until you throw them in. The only way for Lewis to get experience is to play.
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“He has a mature head on young shoulders and if he plays against Northern Ireland I believe he can handle it.
“He's playing regularly in the Championship and Joe Royle must think very highly of him to play him because Ipswich are a club looking to get into the Premier League.
“He's a big lad, a good shot-stopper and he kicks the ball well. I can't see a problem for him.”
Lawrie Sanchez's improving Northern Ireland side have won their last two matches, famously beating England after defeating Azerbaijan.
Wales, in contrast, have to go back to March 2003 for their last competitive victory, against Azerbaijan in Cardiff.
Jones said: “Windsor Park is a difficult place to go. Northern Ireland had a great result against England and they beat Azerbaijan before that so they'll be looking to finish third in the group.
“They'll come out all guns blazing at the start. The first 20-25 minutes will be quite hectic.
“A lot of balls will be raining into the box and Lewis will have to cope with that.”
Jones has played just one match since the end of February, has not represented his country for a year and will be 39 on his next birthday.
But the veteran Wales shot-stopper refuses to give up hope of adding to his collection of 43 Welsh caps.
He said: “I certainly haven't given up hope of winning more caps. Personally, I still want to play.
“I haven't played for Wales since the Poland game at the start of last season and I'd love to play for my country again.”
Jones enjoyed first-choice status from 1998 until Toshack succeeded Mark Hughes last November and has assumed the role of elder statesman in the squad.
He has also been assigned the task of grooming the next generation of Welsh goalkeepers such as Price and Wolves' Wayne Hennessey.